PM on Malta’s post-pandemic reopening: ‘We need to open slowly’

Robert Abela said that different sectors need to be opened up slowly, as the entertainment industry braces itself for another closed summer

Prime Minister Robert Abela
Prime Minister Robert Abela

As entertainment professionals grapple with another summer of limited economic activity, Prime Minister Robert Abela insists that COVID-19 measures must keep being observed, with different economic sectors opening slowly.

“The worst thing that could happen is for us to open up economic activity in a gradual way, and in doing so falling a step back and having to close again,” he said.

Speaking at a political discussion event held by the Labour Party, Abela reiterated the government stance that the vaccine is one of the solutions to the pandemic, and encouraged the public to take the jab.

Earlier in the program, he reflected on the various economic measures implemented to mitigate the events of the COVID-19 pandemic.

June 4 marks one year since government’s post-pandemic regeneration plan was revealed. This saw the introduction of a summer-long voucher scheme that will be renewed for a second time this year.

“We wanted a measure to boost consumption,” he said. “Every euro invested saw another euro spent.”

The renewed voucher scheme was announced on Thursday, with every person aged 16 and over set to receive €100 in vouchers to be spent at restaurants, bars, retail outlets, or on services that were shut during the pandemic.

The first voucher scheme adopted last year consisted of a €45 million injection, which in turn provided a €90 million stimulus to the economy.

Matthew Pace, Secretary of the Association of Catering Establishments, was also present for Sunday’s event, and said that most establishments in operation now have been able to continue largely due to last year’s voucher scheme.

Abela added that the wage supplement scheme, which saw government take on part of the wages of employees in hard-hit sectors, was crucial for companies throughout the pandemic, with businesses in every sector admitting this.

The Prime Minister also reacted to Malta’s 94% score in ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Map, ambitiously stating that he wants Malta to reach 100% in the future.

“Am I satisfied? Yes, but it’s not enough. Our ambition is to reach 100%, and we will get there,” he said.

Abela touched on the major reform that will be taking place on the pre-1995 rent laws, whereby landlords bound under pre-1995 leases will be able to claim up to two per cent of their property’s market value in rent, while government will pay the additional rental costs that families are expected to face.

He said that the challenges faced by tenants and landlords in this scenario are two sides of the same coin. “On one side, owners were being denied the right to enjoy the full value of their property. But on the other hand, one can’t put the weight of €800 monthly rent on a pensioner,” he said.

Government this week adopted a million euro scheme that will provide free internet to all post-secondary students. When prompted on this, Abela went on to announce the government will be adopting a pilot project whereby those holding a Pink Card will be given free two-year access to internet together with hardware, either a PC or laptop.